In the last post in this series we looked at the 5 Good Reasons to Be a Republican. So why not line up, drink the kool-aid, and cast the vote for the best Republican candidate, the one who lines up best to those reasons?
1. Social Issues
In spite of the Republican party gaining a lot of traction from the social issues hot button since the 1980s, there has not been a lot of positive movement on that front. There have been hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of loyal voters who have gone to the polls and cast their vote for Republican candidates but there has not yet been a Constitutional amendment preserving the life of the unborn. Every once in a while there is some extremist legislation put in place at the state level but this is done almost with the expectation of being overturned.
Abortion is not the only social issue either. Gay marriage advanced seemingly unopposed by Republican national leadership. Many Republican senators, congressmen and presidential candidates seemed lost on the issue, unable to balance their self interests with changing climates of political correctness and the demands of those who vote based on their conscience.
The Republican party has gained a lot on the social issues plank of their party platform, but they have left loyal voters with very little to show for it. Certainly the alternative is no better. Democrats guarantee they will not advance on these fronts toward the ends that those who vote according to morality based values and ethics desire. Voting the lesser of two evils does not make sense though. We get the same end result with either party but one party promises us they will do something even though history proves they will not. Really?
I realize there are sincere candidates among the Republicans who would push for reform and change on the social issues but by supporting a party which as a whole does not actually achieve those changes, what is the point? We do not get an A for effort in national politics, especially in the field of social issues.
2. Economic Philosophies Clash with Economic Policies
The party of conservative fiscal policy does not practice what it preaches. Under President George W. Bush, who was at the helm for the first two presidential terms of the new century federal spending was increased an average of $700 per person in the United States above what was spent during President Clinton’s two terms. Much of that spending was on the Iraq War and then on TARP (which he signed in 2008 to hold off the economic meltdown). It’s true that President Obama has increased federal spending almost fives times that amount but the point is not to spend less than Democrats but to spend no more than we bring in. That was the essence of conservative fiscal policy. Add to this the fact that President Bush signed into action tax cuts, and then re-signed them into effect once again, during his time as president and it is difficult to defend this economic squandering as a victim of special circumstances.
Several years removed from these years we can see that this excess spending aided a process of enriching the wealthiest classes of Americans and did little to aid the poor or middle class.
3. Corporate Welfare
The Republican party has justified its strong stance against welfare and assistance for the poor on the basis of conservative fiscal policies and philosophies. The same has not been true for its historical willingness to rush to the aid of corporations and millionaire CEOs. During the economic crisis starting in 2007 under President Bush more than $7 trillion was made available to corporations needing government assistance by the Federal Reserve. The idea of “too big to fail” is a relatively new concept which suggests if big companies fail due to poor management, market downturns, or whatever, they will do great damage to the overall economy including higher unemployment, interest rates and inflation. This is the justification which Republicans and Democrats alike utilize to push for corporate welfare when needed. The problem is, the markets and economies are not reformed when this happens. Bad management, bad behavior, and market excesses continue full speed ahead thanks to the American taxpayer.
President Obama has been no less a supporter of corporate welfare, although he has been more discreet. But from President Reagan to both of the Bushes, Republicans have been all too willing to justify corporate welfare while remaining fundamentally opposed to the same benefit of the doubt to lower income homes and the poor.
(Here are some other thoughts on corporate welfare, although I don’t buy into all of them.)
4. Demonizing the Poor
Not all Republicans demonize the poor but it seems that all the people who demonize the poor tend to be Republicans. Is that an overstatement? Pay attention when guys like Donald Trump start falling behind in the polls and get a little more desperate to keep the spotlight on them. This rhetoric is always good for a headline and some attention.
Being poor is not synonymous with being lazy or stupid. Like it or not, our economy has undergone some significant shifts in the last few decades and it is becoming more and more difficult to attain or remain in the middle class. We are increasingly living within an economic reality where our children are more likely to be worse off financially than we were. Nevertheless, many Republicans continue to speak of those living in poverty or receiving benefits from the government as situations they brought upon themselves. Granted, there are people who abuse the system but the system should reflect a society that is willing to give help to those who need it even if that is at the expense of some bad apples.
Take for example the often touted statement that anyone who receives food stamps should have to take a drug test. Recipients would have to prove they are worthy and separate themselves from people who abuse the system. Years ago our family was going through a very tough financial situation and we knew we would qualify for food stamps. We held out for a long time but eventually, with three kids to feed it just made sense to go and apply. It was a humiliating experience. The environment was filthy, the social worker condescending and as a qualification we had to open up our whole financial situation to a perfect stranger. It was so bad that my wife and I agreed she would not return to finish the process. I cannot imagine how much more degrading a drug test requiring my wife to pee in a cup would have been and I don’t want to.
There are people who abuse the system but there are many more who need assistance and as the most prosperous nation in the world we should not be so ridiculous on this front.
5. Bait & Switch
One of the things that occurred to me around the time of the Iraq War was how my devotion to the Republican party on the basis of strong values based positions on issues such as abortion was actually being manipulated toward policies which worked against these same values. For example, the #1 reason I voted Republican was to support pro-life candidates and policy. But those same candidates, while not moving the needle on pro-life legislation did support a war in Iraq in which thousands of civilians were killed. Not all of that killing was from direct US fire, but the policy still produced death and loss of human life. I cannot accept that an Iraqi life is less valuable than an American life or an unborn life.
When we widen our perspective at this angle we see issues coming into play at even more angles. If an economic policy is producing more pressure on the poor or middle class, this hurts family values. The leading cause for divorce in the US is financial pressures. Divorce breaks up the homes and corrupts our values as the family disintegrates. So on the basis of being pro-life I was empowering policies that actually led to lowering family values. It is still not just “the economy stupid” but we cannot separate economic policies from moral and values based realities. It was a game of bait and switch. I was lured in by the pro-life position, and while nothing shifted there the policies that were implemented actually violated many of my personal values. It was not merely breaking even on the scale of values based positions. It was going backward.
6. Too Much Allowance for Stupid
I know this sounds mean and Republicans don’t have a monopoly here but stupid ideas stick around for too long in the Republican party. For example, since 2000 many Republicans have argued that the best way to secure the border is to erect a wall. (Remember when only the bad guys built walls? See the President Reagan speech from the last post in this series.) Think about that for a moment. Who is going to be restrained by a wall? Not terrorists. Not undesirables. Those who obey the laws will respect the wall. Those who do not will find a way around, over or under the wall. The wall therefore increases the probability of the very people we don’t want coming into the country finding a way in, and those we would welcome in are excluded. The wall is not a plank of the Republican platform but those who push for the wall and other similar poorly considered ideas do tend to be Republicans and they get to stick around for too long.
7. Do Nothings
There was an American political party in the 19th century literally called the “Know Nothing Party.” Republicans could have altered this title over the last 8 years to be the Do Nothing Party. In spite of having a Congressional majority for much of President Obama’s time in office Republicans have offered ample criticism but not a lot of positive ideas or actions. Certainly politics is a complicated game even when considered within the context of internal party disagreements but the past 8 years have shown Americans a lot of what Republicans oppose and not a lot of what they actually want to do. They were against the President’s budgets, healthcare laws, Iranian negotiations, etc…but what viable alternatives did they present?
8. Foreign Policy
Too much of Republican foreign policy is about the stick rather than the carrot. This comes from an over-reliance on military strength to solve all of the nation’s issues in the international arena. The cure for Iran? War. The cure for Cuba? Sanctions and embargoes. The cure for Syria? Airstrikes. There comes a point as these issues compound when we have to realize diplomacy (the carrot) should play a role.
This is not to say all Republicans are about the stick rather than the carrot. James Baker, President Gorge H.W. Bush’s chief of staff was an excellent diplomat and negotiator setting up many of the gains that manifested during President Clinton’s terms in office. There were others before him. In the last decade however, the bulk of Republican solutions to foreign policy issues has been built on the military. This is an easy solution for short term satisfaction but not for long term results. (See Iraq for evidence of this.) For a nation as militarily dominant as the US, it is all too tempting to build an over-reliance upon the military to solve the nation’s issues. Such over-reliance produces the inevitable ends where we are forced into military conflicts that could have otherwise been resolved at the diplomatic table. That price is paid by American lives on the battlefield.
9. Missing the Obvious
The word conservative literally translates to mean preserve, hold to moderation and traditional. It is therefore no surprise that the policies and perspectives of Conservative Republicans should be slow to change. There comes a point however when this simply goes too far and for the sake of holding the traditional line we are missing the obvious. America’s relationship with Cuba has been in place since the early 1960s, more than fifty years. It has produced nothing positive. It has outlived the very conflict it was a part of (the Cold War) by two decades. Yet when President Obama moved towards Cuba in the last few months it was the traditional, Conservative Republican ideology that missed the obvious. The same could be said of Iran. America has been bogged down in a policy of conflict with that nation for more than thirty years where the losses far outweigh the gains. Also to be considered in this list, although more controversial would be the American relationship with Saudi Arabia and Israel. Are these relationships creating greater global security and stability or less? We miss the obvious because we refuse to think beyond what we have always done.
10. Opportunists Abound
This final one is going to seem unfair to some readers. Once again, this is not a strictly Republican problem. All the parties have it. My problem here is that I would hope the party I support would have the organizational culture and integrity to alert its members and create an environment that is hostile to alarmists and opportunists seeking their own self promotion more than the values and visions of the voters. The Republican party does not. Into this classification we find candidates like Donald Trump who is only the most recent of this breed making himself available for the current field of candidates.
The Democrats have their wackos too but the Republican party too often finds itself with candidates who specialize in nonsense and an ability to leverage support by stirring up ignorance, shock and outrage.